Through the years the Anaheim Ducks have turned out such iconic captains as Paul Kariya, Scott Neidermayer and Chris Pronger, and have rarely had reason to doubt their leadership or spending lengthy amounts of time searching for replacements.
Since the retirement of Neidermayer, Ryan Getzlaf has served as Anaheim’s captain, at times his leadership abilities and maturity have been questioned on message boards, online communities and among the Ducks fan base in general. While at times I’ve understood the concern and have myself wondered whether or not Getzlaf was thrown into the role of leadership too early, I would make the case that Getzlaf’s captaincy was not only the right choice, but will have a positive effect moving forward.
Getzlaf is to Anaheim what Joe Thornton has been to the San Jose Sharks. He’s strong, physical and an excellent passer above anything else. As with Thornton, fans have often gotten frustrated with his lack of a willingness to shoot despite having an excellent shot, and have spent more than a few moments on the couch with their faces buried in both palms while watching their captain skate like he’s drowning in quicksand. So while it’s true that Getzlaf, like Thornton has had his fair share of criticism for his playing style, his leadership and playing ability should raise no concern among the Duck’s faithful.
Getzlaf’s passing ability and physicality at the center position has helped to deliver four straight 30 goal seasons for Bobby Ryan. It has also been instrumental in the rise of long time line mate Corey Perry to a 98 point season and the Hart Trophy as league MVP. His ability to slow the game down and skate in such a way that backs defenders off of him nearly perfected the Randy Carlyle down-low cycling offense that worked so well for Anaheim in years gone by. The reality of Getzlaf’s playing style is that it makes those around him successful, and it takes whatever form requested by his coach, be it Carlyle or Bruce Boudreau.
While it’s true that Getzlaf is a young captain, he’s one of many in the growing NHL trend of young captains, including Jonathan Toews, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. That to say, he’s not unusual and as he grows and matures he’ll continue to become a more effective and more qualified leader that Anaheim will have built from the ground up. Maturity in a sports environment can be a fluid term and though Getzlaf has been penalty prone at times and has made his share of mistakes, he’s not behind the curve for his age. Getzlaf has gotten through his entire captaincy without any visible contention with his teammates or either of the two Ducks coaching staffs he’s played under. He’s even been able to quietly navigate through a season and offseason of trade rumors surrounding him, and at times, both of his line mates. He hasn’t spoken with the press in such a way that has been detrimental to the relationship between him and his team, and hasn’t made any known demands to Anaheim management.
Now I know that as fans and spectators we don’t know everything about the athletes we follow so closely; therefore, in situations like these the best we can do sometimes is speculate. Though I would make the case and maintain that with the way Getzlaf has played and handled himself on the ice and in the public eye, he has done more than enough to qualify himself as an excellent captain and leader for the Ducks moving forward. Getzlaf is in the early stages of his maturity and is reaching the prime of his playing ability. As such, he should get an opportunity to reach the fulfillment of his potential as Anaheim’s captain and offensive leader. If he chooses to re-sign with the Ducks after this season, I hope he gets every chance to do so.